BITCH MEDIA: Ari Fitz on How Instagram Fails Queer Black Creators

In February 2019, Out magazine reported that photographer Tom Bianchi had been locked out of his Instagram account because he’d posted a polaroid photograph of the back of a nude man sitting on a bed, his butt barely visible. “On Saturday morning I woke up to find that my Instagram account had been removed in its entirety for violating ‘Community Guidelines,’” he told Out. After artists, fans, and his husband posted their concerns on Instagram, Bianchi’s account—and the previously offending post—was reactivated.

Sex-tech startups Dame Products and Unbound protested Facebook, the company that owns Instagram, in July 2019 for continually rejecting their ads and reporting their posts despite their content being much less sexual than those of male-focused brands like HimsShadowbanning, a hotly-contested term used to describe Instagram’s algorithm allegedly deprioritizing certain Instagram posts or accounts, has been rightfully critiqued for harming marginalized people. Womenqueer people, and sex workers have begun leaving Instagram entirely, saying it’s becoming increasingly difficult to build community on a platform with vague guidelines about what’s allowed. (Instagram’s policy about nipples has caused a lot of controversy, for instance). Queer Black influencer and YouTuber Ari Fitz, whose Instagram bio read, “HE/HER/DADDY,”ditched the platform, leaving behind nearly 140,000 followers. Her final post, captioned, “been fun, @instagram,” features a blurred post of Ari posing while topless, her arms covering her chest. A swipe on the post reveals a screenshot of Instagram’s notice to Fitz that the original post had been removed for violating the platform’s “nudity or sexual activity” policy.

On her final post, Fitz cropped the photo closer to her chest to showcase just how difficult it is to see her nipples, which, she assumes, is why Instagram blocked the image. The top comment on the post reads, “i follow a white [woman] who posts herself completely naked with 2 little scribbles over her nipples. and her posts are still up. bullshit.” (White models and influencers like Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski have “poked fun” at Instagram’s no-female-nipples policy.). I interviewed Fitz about her decision to leave Instagram and if Instagram’s community guidelines are specifically targeting queer people of color.

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Ari Fitz on how Instagram fails Queer black creators by Rachel Charlene Lewis

Aug 15th, 2019


LOS ANGELES TIMES: Asian women fought the West’s slave trade. And then they were written out of history

It was nearly dusk on Dec. 14, 1933, when a Chinese teen named Jeung Gwai Ying fled from a hairdresser’s shop to a “safe house” in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Trafficked from China and forced into prostitution, Jeung sought freedom for herself and her unborn child. She was greeted by Tien Fuh Wu, a former slave who’d become a key staffer at the home. In Cantonese, Wu asked the teen to tell her story. Later, Wu would provide support for Jeung as she testified in court against her traffickers, who were convicted.

In the early decades of the 20th century, Wu was a key player in the fight against sex trafficking, a pervasive form of slavery in the West. But like many other Asian activists and anti-slavery pioneers, her name and story have been all but erased from most contemporary histories, in favor of stories that cast her white colleagues — women and men — in heroic, larger-than-life roles.

Most accounts of the rescue home at 920 Sacramento St. focus on the work of its longtime superintendent, Donaldina Cameron, a white Presbyterian missionary. As the youngest daughter of a Scottish sheep rancher, she had lived on a 19,000-acre sheep ranch in the San Gabriel Valley in the 1880s before moving to San Francisco to work at the rescue home in 1895. Cameron was a tall, auburn-haired woman with a Scottish lilt who fascinated headline writers and the public alike. She regularly staged dramatic rescues of so-called slave girls from their owners, in her Victorian era’s parlance.

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Asian women fought the West's slave trade. And then they were written out of history by Julia Flynn Siler

Aug. 4th, 2019


ROLLING STONE: California Just Passed a Landmark Law Protecting Sex Workers’ Rights

When Kristen DiAngelo was younger and doing sex work, police officers would routinely do big sweeps of areas known to be frequented by sex workers. “Cops would roll up. They’d grab your purse and dump it out. They’d look at your arms for track marks. They’d look through your pockets,” DiAngelo, now executive director of SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project) Sacramento, tells Rolling Stone. “They’d just do it. They didn’t ask.” Sometimes, they’d find condoms during these searches — and under California law, that would be evidence enough to arrest someone and charge them with loitering with the intent to commit to prostitution.

When she was on the streets, this happened all the time. DiAngelo says the end result was that many of her peers stopped carrying condoms altogether, thus putting them at increased risk of contracting STIs. When she started working for SWOP, a sex worker outreach organization, she and other members would pass out cards telling sex workers to know their rights, informing them that searches yielding condoms as evidence were illegal and they did not have to consent to them. “They’d look at me with wide eyes and say, ‘That’s easy for you to say. I do what [the cops] want me to do. They’re God,'” says DiAngelo.

Thanks to a landmark bill in California, however, that is set to change. On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB233, a Senate bill sponsored by state senator Scott Wiener and pushed forward in large part by SWOP and other sex-worker rights organizations. The bill is significant for including two key components: it contains a provision providing immunity for sex workers who report being the victims of abuse or domestic violence to the police, and it also renders condoms inadmissible as evidence of the intent to do sex work.

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California just passed a landmark law protecting Sex Workers' rights by EJ Dickson

July 31st, 2019


THE SWADDLE: BDSM Culture Can Make Women More Assertive In Work, Relationships

“I don’t know how to explain it … but I have more clarity the morning after. It’s come to a point where my partner and I ensure we engage in a play scene before any big meetings I have. It really gives me the boost I need.”

R.P. is a 32-year-old consultant living in Mumbai. When she joined a high-powered consulting firm seven years ago, she found herself struggling to keep up with the pace and make herself heard.

“Around the same time, I got into a relationship with a man who was into BDSM [bondage and discipline; dominance and submission; sadism and masochism] and kink play. He introduced me to it and I instantly took a liking to it,” R.P. says. “Surprisingly, I found myself gravitating towards the role of the Dominant. Within the confines of a loving and safe space with a partner I trusted, I was able to assert myself in ways I couldn’t outside my bedroom. Slowly, I began to notice that especially on days after we had engaged in a play scene, I would feel more focussed, composed and clear-headed. It was almost as if the satisfied feeling I felt in bed, in that position of power, flowed over the next day. I feel like I know more about myself — my mind and my body.”

According to recent research by Dr. Brad Sagarin, a professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University, kinks such as BDSM alter the blood flow pattern in the brain, creating altered states of consciousness. For those who assume the dominant position in BDSM, these mental states are called “flow” — the term popularized by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. Flow is defined asan “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” It’s a state of hyperawareness, laser focus, and euphoria, which resonates with R.P.’s experience. “I just feel more brave, if that makes sense,” she says. Sagarin’s research confirms just that. The study found that people who regularly experience flow as an effect of dominant BDSM roles report improved concentration, clarity about goals, decision-making skills, and listening and intuitive skills. They also demonstrate lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, less self-consciousness and less aversion to risk.

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BDSM Culture can make Women more assertive in work, relationships by Pallavi Prasad

July 28th, 2019


PAPER: Rubber Queen Mistress Ariana Chevalier on the State of Domme-ing

A long-time veteran of NYC's domme scene, Mistress Ariana Chevalier has been a fixture of the fetish scene since way before domme-ing had become a pop cultural fascination. From helming the city's biggest, woman-run dungeon to being on the frontlines of Bloomberg's infamous brothel crackdown — which shut down dungeons on the basis of New York's antiquated sodomy law — Chevalier has seen it all.

A rubber specialist, Chevalier has traveled across the globe to meet clients who had heard of her legendary skills. Armed with an arsenal of hoods, catsuits, and whips accumulated over several decades of working, Chevalier is, arguably, the person to call when you want to explore rubber play.

After all, she's been in the game since the mid-90s. While searching for a second job, Chevalier dove headfirst into the femme domme world after getting hired at a dungeon purchased by a husband-wife team. The only downside? The man in charge overtly told Chevalier that she "wouldn't be able to make as much as any other women because of [her] skin color."

That said, she spent this formative period honing her craft and making sure that every client who came her way always had the best time — to the point where she "eventually was booked the entire time." Unfortunately, it also soon became apparent to her that "money was going missing."

Fast forward to Chevalier's decision to break away from the male-owned dungeon and start her own with two other women. And she hasn't looked back since.

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Rubber Queen Mistress Ariana Chevalier on the State of Domme-ing by Sandra Song

June 20th, 2019


BITCH MEDIA: Bad Mouths

One night in the 1820s, a man in Rugby, England, came home to find his wife drunk. As punishment for her “unacceptable” behavior, he threw her into a nearby pond, quickly dragged her out, and shoved a bar of soap into her mouth. “She has had plenty of water to wash with. She ought now to have a little soap,” the man said, according to a court account cited in an 1832 law lecture given at London University.

Many of us think of washing someone’s mouth out with soap as an outdated punishment for ill-tempered children, but for a long time it was also commonplace as a corrective for women who ventured beyond the bounds of what their husbands considered wifely. It’s also no accident that such a penalty was enacted in conjunction with the submerging of the offending party into a body of water. After all, washing away sin is an act as old as civilization itself, and one that’s most often associated with children, women, and others considered uninitiated in the ways of morality and faith. Baptism is meant to purify, through Christ, children born with sin. While any Jew can go to the mikveh, or ritual bath, women have to go after their menses to wash away the impurity of their own blood.

In medieval times, and up to as late as the early 19th century, women who were presumed to be witches (or simply deemed immoral) would often be strapped to a chair and submerged in water as both punishment for their perceived crimes and as a form of purification. And soap, layered on top of the symbolically cleansing water, was often portrayed as the “cure” for nonwhite cultures that white imperialists sought to indoctrinate—violently, if necessary—in their notions of faith, family structure, and goodness. One infamous 1890s advertisement for Pears’ Soap depicts a military man washing his hands in a basin, with copy that reads, “The first step towards lightening The White Man’s Burden is through teaching the virtues of cleanliness.”

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Bad Mouths by Rachel Klien

July 15th, 2019


IN THESE TIMES: Should HIV-Positive Workers Be Allowed in the Sex Industry? Some Advocates Say Yes.

Individuals who are HIV-positive are not permitted to participate in the adult entertainment industry. That standard is enforced through the Performer Availability Screening Services, otherwise known as PASS. Anyone who tests positive for HIV is permanently banned from the system.

The same applies to other regulated subsets of sex work. To date, Nevada is the only state where full-service sex work is legal. All individuals who apply for work must undergo medical testing for STIs, including HIV. According to Jeremy Lemur, a P.R. representative for one of Nevada’s 21 legal brothels, anyone who tests positive for the virus is not welcome to work at any legal establishment within the state.

But not all sex workers think HIV-positive people should be banned from the field. Jacen Zhu is an adult performer and LGBTQIA activist. According to him, there are schools of queer performers who believe in opening up the industry gates to those living with an undetectable HIV status.

The word “undetectable” is important to emphasize here. The advance of antiretroviral therapy has dramatically shifted the prognosis of those who test positive for HIV. The medication works by preventing copies of the existing virus from replicating and blocking new ones from entering human cells. So long as they remain vigilant with this medication regime, HIV positive individuals are able to maintain a normal lifespan. In fact, the medication is able to suppress viral loads so effectively that standard blood tests will not be able to detect any trace of the virus. This is what it means to become “undetectable.” And that’s an important status to carry, especially in the context of intimate relationships. A 2017 report conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 49% of people living with HIV in the United States had reduced their viral loads to an undetectable level.

“If you have an undetectable viral load for an extended period of time, say 6 months, it is extremely unlikely that you would transmit the virus to an uninfected partner,” explains Dr. William Short, an infectious disease specialist based in Philadelphia. Short is also an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania and serves on the board of directors for the American Academy of HIV Medicine. “Thousands and thousands of acts of condom-less sex have been studied,” he adds. “The science is very clear.”

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Should HIV-postive workers be allowed in the sex industry? Some Advocates say yes. by Carrie Wisemen

July 10th, 2019


VICE: Your Brain on BDSM- Why Getting Spanked and Tied Up Makes You Feel High

There's no denying that understanding how the human body works can lead to some intense sex. After all, as clichéd as it is, the brain is the biggest erogenous zone—and BDSM is no different.

It may conjure up images of bondage, discipline, sadomasochism, dominance, and submission, but many BDSM practictioners attribute the pleasurable pain of their fetish to the endorphin rush that accompanies the acting out of their fantasies. There's even a word for the state of a submissive's mind and body during and after consensual kinky play: subspace, often described as a "floaty" or "flying" feeling.

"For all of us, endorphins bind to opiate receptors to naturally relieve pain," explains Maitresse Madeline Marlowe, a professional dominatrix who also works as a performer and director for Kink.com, a leading BDSM content producer. "Since BDSM play can include power exchange and masochistic acts, endorphins are one of the most common neurotransmitters [produced]."

As far back as 1987, leather activist and author Dr. Geoff Mains hypothesized that BDSM activity stimulated the release of endorphins, but scientists have yet to tease out the exact relationship between neurochemicals and S&M. But subspace does exist: Dr. Brad Sagarin, founder of the Science of BDSM research team and a professor of social and evolutionary psychology at Northern Illinois University, has compared it to runner's high, the sense of euphoria and increased tolerance for pain that some joggers feel after a long run. Except, obviously, one is caused by the asphalt flashing beneath your feet, the other by a whip swishing through the air.

 

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Your Brain on BDSM: Why Getting Spanked and Tied Up Makes You High by Gareth May

February 16, 2017


THE ESTABLISHMENT: Yes, You Need to Talk to Kids about Porn

Thirteen years ago, Erika Lust, a political science graduate who specialized in gender studies, decided to start making porn films. Frustrated by the tacky, chauvinistic content of mainstream porn, she wanted to see if it was possible to make a different kind of adult film — one that focused on story, characters, and the female gaze. Since then, she has since gone on to create over 100 highly crafted, ethically produced porn films, a host of which have won awards.

Her latest project is a continuation of her engagement with dominant porn culture — but from a decidedly different angle. Inspired by her role as a mother, and her desire to give something back in her area of expertise, she and her husband Pablo Dobner launched The Porn Conversation, a nonprofit initiative that aims to help parents talk to their children about porn. The website offers age-specific guides, starting with kids under 11 years old, that were put together in consultation with parents, sexologists, and psychologists, as well as other tools and resources for parents and educators.

I interviewed Erika in Berlin, where she recently spoke about The Porn Conversation at Tech Open Air, an interdisciplinary festival that brings together technology, arts, and culture.

Madhvi Ramani: Why is it important for parents to have “the porn conversation” with their children?

Erika Lust: Porn is part of the reality we live in. It has grown enormously in the last 10 years, because of the internet and the proliferation of porn tubes [free porn sites that do not require registration], which are the biggest part of pornography today. The kind of content available on these porn tubes is highly racist, misogynistic, and chauvinistic. It is something that parents can’t ignore because children, at a very early age, are coming across this content online. They are going to find it, and look at it, and it’s going to influence their perceptions about sexuality and gender roles. So, if parents talk to their children before or during this time of discovery, they can help them think more analytically and critically about the images they are seeing.

 

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Yes, You Need to Talk to Your Children About Porn by Madhvi Ramani

January 9, 2018

 


iNews: BDSM Practitioners Less Likely to Have Victim-blaming Attitudes in Sexual Violence Cases

People who take part in BDSM sex activities (bondage, discipline/dominance, submission/sadism, masochism) are less likely to hold attitudes consistent with rape culture, research has found.

Victim-blaming attitudes are less widespread as well as acceptance of so-called rape myths in sexual violence cases, according to the study.

The reason for this could be because the BDSM subculture has “affirmative consent norms,” says Kathryn Klement, co-author of the study called “Participating in a culture of consent may be associated with lower rape-supportive beliefs“.

Affirmative consent is a conscious, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity, either by words or actions.

It means explicitly saying “yes” to questions such as “Can I take your clothes off?” and “Can I touch you?,” says Ms Klement, from the department of psychology at Northern Illinois University. Affirmative consent is seen in the Yes Means Yes policy enforced in colleges and universities in some US states including California and New York. It can be contrasted with a policy where consent is assumed – until someone says no.

Negotiations and safe-words

Within the BDSM community, there is a culture of affirmative or negotiating consent. Practitioners will “negotiate what to do ahead of time,” discuss limits and have safe-words for when they want activities to stop, she says.

 

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BDSM Practitioners less likely to have victim-blaming attitudes in sexual violence cases by Serina Sandhu

August 17, 2016